I’m sure everyone knows B.J. Ryan is feeling good and might be ready for opening day, and Casey Janssen taking the 5th spot in the rotation all hinges on Ryan’s return (or not). But for some reason, this is being taken as some kind of miracle, or a potential rush-job by the Jays. One year is a nice round number being thrown around as an absolute minimum for a return from Tommy John surgery.
Of course it depends on the success of the procedure (and probably more on the quality of the rehab), but you can find plenty of mention of the normal recovery time being 12 months or less, and relievers tend to be on the short side of the timetable. B.J. Ryan had surgery 11 months before opening day. Especially for someone with a good reputation for physical conditioning, it would not be strange at all if he was ready to go.
I know, I know…you’re still scarred when Victor Zambrano “defied the experts” in spring training last season and then totally exploded on the mound. But he was coming off his second Tommy John, as well as bone spurs and a torn tendon (and I was never too impressed with the Jays strategy of nursing him back by ignoring him in the bullpen for a month and then throwing him into the rotation cold). Zambrano’s arm was fried, and he was always a guy with great stuff who didn’t know where it was going. Despite his imposing stature and high strikeout rate, Ryan relies much more on deception. So it’s not as absurd that he could be effective with a few mph shaved off his fastball (as it was in Zambrano’s case), at the very least as the lefty-killer he used to be.
Being back to 100% is another story. I’m sure there will be a few bumps along the road, as he essentially has to remember how to pitch again. His control and feel could even take all season to return, and duplicating his incredible performance in 2006 was already highly unlikely. But if the Jays’ trainers say that he’s on schedule when there’s no burning need or particular pressure to bring him back, then there’s no medical reason to second-guess them.